Friday, July 29, 2005

The letter to the editor I should have written

I wonder if the editors of The Dallas Morning News read their editorials out loud before printing them.

Your argument that Menezes’ death was caused by the terrorists instead of the police officers who pulled the trigger could not be more wrong. If Nuremberg has taught us anything, it is that each individual is responsible for the crimes he or she commits even if those crimes are part of official policy. Merely “following orders” will not absolve you from your wrongdoings. If we were to accept your “logic,” then Janet Reno would have to answer for the bombing of the Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City!

There is obviously a severe flaw in the training of police officers if not one of them could distinguish between a Brazilian man on his way to work and a jihadist strapped with explosives. Just because you’re scared shitless does not mean it will ever be acceptable to murder an innocent person. Furthermore, if you’re scared shitless and are just going to shoot every dark-skinned person walking down the street, find a new line of work.

In the few months I worked as a part-time clerk at UT’s International Office (which served one of the largest international student populations in the US), I became fairly adept at identifying nationalities just by physical characteristics. One of my proudest moments was when I could distinguish between the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis. Is insisting that an armed police officer have one ounce of the intelligence of a part-time clerk asking too much?

What makes matters worse and even less acceptable is the official slander of Menezes after his murder. It was immediately announced that he was indeed under investigation for the subway bombings in London. When it was discovered that that simply was not true, we got the speculative justification that he was probably in the UK illegally, and that’s why he ran. His visa was still valid when the seventh bullet entered his head.

The murder of Jean Charles de Menezes is more than just a personal tragedy, it is a crime perpetrated by the state that ultimately distracts the people from the state’s true crime: not protecting its citizens from terrorists in the first place.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Panic on the streets of London

By the time the third bullet entered Jean Charles de Menezes' head, I'd like to think this thing called "Western civilization" still had a chance to live. But then: bullet #4. Bullet #5. Bullet #6. Bullet #7.

Since watching the PBS documentary about Emma Goldman for the second time this past week, I've been thinking a lot about the state's monopoly on murder. And why it's only when the state exercises its monopoly on murder do we call it something other than "murder": capital punishment, collateral damage, war.

Something the state's monopoly on murder should never be called, however, is an "accident."

Example of an accident--"oops, I slipped and accidentally pulled the trigger."

But then: bullet #2. Bullet #3. Bullet #4. Bullet #5. Bullet #6. Bullet #7. And he was pinned down while the trigger was pulled.

So, yes: there is terrorism in London. But don't you feel safer already? As long as your skin is rosy pink like Tony Blair's....

Friday, July 22, 2005

a beautiful thing--like glass, like gossamer, like a mimosa bloom--surrounded by thistles

These words are my attempt to describe Gregg Araki's latest film Mysterious Skin, based on the novel by Scott Heim. It is such a lush, gorgeous film about such tragic and disturbing things that you almost wish it was about alien abduction. And the soundtrack by ambient legends Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd creates an ethereal mood that complements the lushness and underlying grit of the film.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My life suddenly came into focus when I learned to channel my anger into rap music

After getting pissed off this afternoon with the video rental shop that has found it necessary to charge me more than $15 for a return that was absolutely not late and then to not respond to a letter I wrote more than two months ago in an attempt to settle the matter, my second thought [the first was to sabotage their dropbox--and now that I've blogged it, there's no way I could carry it out] was to add a line on a small index card on which I write lyrics to a rap song should I ever decide to record such a thing.

Now I see what all the fuss is about: rap amplifies and clarifies the anger I felt rising much like what a laser does with light. And now that M&M--no, wait: that's the candy!--Eminem is retiring, perhaps the music industry is ready for an overweight hillbilly from east Texas with bad skin to fill his shoes. I sound like a Third Coast Andy Warhol! At least I have some good rap lyrics already written:
I got it down to a science
We gonna stand in defiance
Don't know why you wanna hate me
Ain't gonna pay your late fee

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Body Counts

While I was driving home last night from teaching, I heard a report on The World about Iraq Body Count, an organization that is attempting to document all civilians killed in this illegal & immoral war. The numbers don't scare me so much (between 22,850 and 25,881) after the handful of years I spent walking among the ghosts of 6 million, trying not to continue that hard mathematics in my head once my eyes were closed.

What I found infuriating, however, was the "official" response from members of the United States military. I'm not talking about the quotes peppered throughout IBC's web site; although they certainly should chill any thinking, feeling human to the core. The asses that were interviewed on the radio were belligerent, defiant, and downright stupid. It made me wish I did pay taxes so I could be a part of the civil disobedient refusing to fund this illegal & immoral war.

How do we know the good we're doing if we don't know the evil?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Delusions of Adequacy

Yes! I've finally found the answer to that age-old question: What do most of my friends suffer from? I, of course, suffer from delusions of entitlement, thinking I'm somehow entitled to better friends than these....

Here is a short list of questions & comments I should've had the balls to voice over the weekend:
  • So, you're sending your 3-year-old son off to preschool this fall for socialization; when are you going to do that for your 36-year-old husband?
  • So, you were at the bookstore at midnight to buy a copy of the latest J.K. Rowland children's book. If you like Harry Potter, you'll love Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye!
  • A typical conversation works like this: a) I ask you a question; b) you answer and then ask me a question; c) I answer. That way we all have a chance to talk about how interesting we are. Your solipsistic soliloquy is not that interesting to those of us who are infinitely more interesting than you.
  • How appropriate is it to monopolize the conversation, constantly turning it back to marriage and children, when you're having a conversation with divorcees, gays, and an Indian man not yet in the confines of an arranged marriage?

Thank god I don't work with them!

Friday, July 15, 2005

David Madden-ing

I hate him! And I swear Trebek and his producers are just handing him all the Daily Doubles. How can someone know both the Bible and Johnny Cash trivia so well and not be from east Texas!

And the answer to Final Jeopardy is "What is Charlotte's Web?"

Yep, he missed it! And he still wins. Ugh.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Skylab Anniversary

Twenty-six years ago...

The Skylab space station, at 77 tons the largest object ever orbited, flashed through the atmosphere and disintegrated in a blaze of fireworks over the Indian Ocean today, showering tons of debris across the Great Australian Desert, one of the world's most remote places.

Tomorrow begins the second summer semester; I'll be teaching two sections of government. Which means I have to once again be on top of what's happening in our government. Which means I'll have to follow those insipid stories about our government that I really am not interested in in the least. Looking forward to being able to teach upper-level courses in my expertise someday. (Explaining the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats for the 100th time just doesn't do it for me any more ... especially when there are too few.)

I've been practicing Qigong much more regularly these past few weeks. I get such a physical rush afterwards, it's hard to describe. I started reading about it's history and practice online this morning. It has been scientifically proven that a Qigong master can "produce significant structural changes in water and aqueous solutions, alter the phase behavior of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline (DPPC) liposomes, and enable the growth of Fab protein crystals." What the hell?!?! If I ever master this practice, I'll stick to the old-fashioned H2O structure of my water, thank you very much.

Looking forward to spending some time with my sister and niece this week. Looking forward to teaching after a two-month break. Looking forward to my afternoon coffee already.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

¿Y ahora quién podrá defendernos?

Like so many people today, I started this morning thinking about terrorism.

Is the goal to terrorize or just to murder? Or is it through murder that we are terrorized? If that is the case, then is it recognition by the terrorists of something innate and primal in all humans that we empathize with their victims?

Are the victims merely symbolic despite the fact that they are human? Or can any of us draw a simple enough line between the human and symbolic? Perhaps the terrorists are forcing us to accept that there exists some tenuous tenet between the human and symbolic.

I talked to my dear, sensitive friend Jihad—the one with the scary and less-than-sensitive-sounding name—on September 12, 2001. He was crying on the phone, angry that these terrorists murdered so many people. He kept arguing that if they wanted to do something symbolic and dramatic, then why didn’t they just attack the World Trade Center on Sunday, when presumably there would have been less people there.

But isn’t that the point? People—individuals—are symbols, like it or not, especially in large numbers: the six million of the Holocaust, the twenty million under Stalin, the sixty million of the Middle Passage (to whom Toni Morrison dedicated Beloved).

Only in literature have I found an example of terrorism for terrorism’s sake: Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. The unwilling terrorist has to bomb the Greenwich Observatory for the science and notions of progress it represents. What better act than the destruction of Longitude 0°0’0”, the location that defines time and space around the entire globe, and where East literally (and symbolically!) meets West? But the plan is ruined when one person is accidentally killed.

What better symbolic act than attacking a transit system of a city that relies heavily on its transit system? Of course, laziness could also be a factor: it’s typically the weakest link just by the sheer number of people that have to be processed everyday. But again, it’s also where the people are.

Ultimately, my question is not any of the questions I’ve asked so far, but rather, are not the terrorists themselves humans after all? Is terrorism not just merely an attack on civilization but an inherent part of that civilization itself? The G8 statement claimed that the terrorists are “intent on destroying human life.” But isn’t it merely because of the inherent symbolic nature or value of that life?

My final question: any thoughts?

My final statement: I don’t know.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

>G(r)8

Just finished watching a huge chunk of the Live 8 highlights on ABC. As a sensitive and passionate celebrity and/or citizen, I felt it was my [American] duty to make a difference in the world by watching/attending a free concert. ABC, however, had other plans: let's sell lots of ad space to sensitive and caring corporations.

What was with the all-star finale in which [Sir] Paul McCartney tacked on the ending of "Hey Jude" to "The Long and Winding Road"? And what was with [crazy] Mariah Carey out there wrangling the little [hungry] African kids like the exploited props they were. But at least even the crazy and/or poor can sing along with "Na na na na-na-na na, Hey Jude." [Nowhere was the [exploited] prop aspect more evident than the scenes of the [survivor] African woman who not only was the [poor] poster child of world hunger back in Live Aid but was paraded and prodded across the stage tonight by both [Sir] Bob Geldof and [Queen (of Pop)] Madonna.]

What really united the world tonight, however, was Trimspa in their perfectly insensitive ads about losing weight. Whether you're part of the sub-Saharan population ravaged by AIDS or the [near] anorexic celebrity/diva, let's use Trimspa, whose slogan of "Be envied" smacks of everything that's wrong with the world. Or at least with the people that buy-in to that sentiment.